What a superb name for a hill! This is a lovely circuit of a walk starting off from the Bruce Stone car park at the head of Glentrool. It is a great walk with lovely scenery and no people.
The car park is often busy, especially on weekends in the warmer months. It’s great when everyone else heads up the tourist path to the Merrick and we head off down the track towards Glenhead where we join the Southern Upland Way. This passes through the sublime Glentrool Oak Woods. These ancient woods are perfect for birds like Redstart, Wood Warbler and Pied Flycatcher. It’s worth sending a few hours here just listening and watching. Unfortunately Jazz has the attention span of, well, a Springer Spaniel and so we had to push on.
The path follows the SUW through the forest and then up to the pass before it drops down towards Loch Dee. The path is unusual in that it is composed of crushed sea-shells through which a colourful range of wild-flowers are growing. Keep going along the path until you reach the Giant Axe-head carved with runes. This is one of the Seven Stanes and the first one on our list. Now we head off over rough ground heading for Craiglee. 1
Just beneath the summit is a smooth vertical rock face that is etched with amazing scrapes I assume were gouged by the last glacier to pass. I am no climber but this looked like fun for the adrenaline junkies. Naturally, Jazz gave it serious consideration but as she’d left her ropes back in the car we had to take the route around and onto the summit. Today the weather was hot and I was starting to worry that the poor creature might be suffering a bit as she dragged her paws over the rocks making teenager-like humph noises. If this happens to you: don’t be fooled. As soon as we were within 20m of the summit’s trig-point she bolted for the top and gave that smug “I got here first” look. Petty, I think you’ll agree. But the views were outstanding.
One of the cool things you find in the Galloway Hills are “Erratics” 2 For those of you asleep during geography at school 3 then an “erratic” is a large boulder that a glacier picked up somewhere, carried along for a while, and then either got bored, ran out of energy, or just melted and left this nice boulder sitting somewhere odd. The ones on Craiglee are lovely because they are everywhere and of such strange shapes.
Now this paragraph could offend persons of a sensitive nature, so skip on if it applies to you. The Rig of the Jarkness has a lot of lovely lochans. Some were even used in days gone by as curling rinks by the people of Newton Stewart – that’s commitment to your sport! Jazz was getting seriously hot and decided to take a refreshing dip to cool off. I thought for a bit and agreed that this was a splendid notion so went for a dip myself; 15 minutes sunbathing on a rock and I was dry. The look on her face was priceless. I’m sorry for leaving that image with you – I know it’s going to fester.
As I started coming down off the Rig of the Jarkness something really strange happened: I met some people. This doesn’t usually happen. Even better: they were nice people. They were a young foreign couple (Austrian I think) who were wandering around the hills. Today they were heading for the bothy at White Laggan. And the bit that catapulted them into greatness: they were collecting litter. In this great weather, herds of knuckle-draggers 4 were heading for the hills, rough camping and then leaving a tip. My new friends told me they’d just cleared one site at Loch Valley and were now heading to the bothy because they’d heard it had been trashed. Remember these are foreigners looking after someone else’s country. I didn’t see any readers of the Daily Mail doing the same. I felt ashamed of my fellow Scots and full of admiration for these people willing to clean up after others for no pay or thanks simply because they loved Scotland. Well, I’m thanking them: they were inspirational and humbling — I’m just sorry I didn’t get your names.
The drop off the Rig of the Jarkness is a steep decent (well, it was the way we came!) down to the path along the lovely Gairland Burn and then back to the car. The views as you come back to Glentrool are stunning: this is a beautiful spot and one that everyone should get to know and love.
- When you have a hill with a name as wonderful as Rig of the Jarkness it is a pity the one next to it gets a name from the job-lot bucket and used for multiple hills. It is a nice hill to climb though. ↩
- If you thought this applied to your narrator then shame on you! I prefer “Idiosyncratic”. ↩
- Topical aside: in the Wikileaks melee in late 2010 one of the leaked diplomatic cables was that Prince Andrew claimed the UK has the best geography teachers in the world. Certainly, mine were good. As well as learning about glacial landscapes I learned how to develop black-and-white film. Thanks guys. ↩
- This was the politest description I could come up with. Let’s just call them: children of bachelors. ↩
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